Alibi V.28 No.1 • Jan 3-9, 2019 

Idiot Box

Warner Warning

Media giant goes streaming

Do you like watching a wide variety of movies and TV shows on cable TV or Netflix or iTunes? Do you enjoy those products, irrespective of whatever movie or TV studio produced them? Are you even aware of the individual studios responsible? If you answered yes, yes and no, then you are not the sort of consumer modern-day media corporations want. Today’s media giants demand loyalty. Paramount doesn’t want you watching Sony movies and vice versa. Disney has already begun its mass exodus from Netflix so that it can package all of its content on a proprietary digital streaming service, Disney+. Pretty soon, the only thing you’ll be a able to watch on Netflix will be Netflix-branded movies and series. Now comes word that WarnerMedia is jumping on the bandwagon as well, forming its own subscription-based streaming service for all those dedicated Warner fans who want to pay a monthly fee to watch Warner (and only Warner) content.

This inevitable change comes in the wake of AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner. The newly formed multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate WarnerMedia now controls a sizable chunk of show biz real estate, encompassing television, cable and publishing operations. The company’s assets now include Warner Bros., Turner Broadcasting Systems, HBO, Cartoon Network, CNN, DC Comics and half of The CW (among other bits and bobs).

Late last month, Variety reported that the new Warner streaming service would offer three options to potential subscribers. That’s three full tiers of service based on how much access to Warner media you crave. The packages are loosely described as an “entry-level package,” a “premium service with original programming and blockbuster movies” and a third tier that would give you access to everything in the first two tiers, plus “an extensive library of WarnerMedia and licensed content.”

So what, exactly, will you be watching on the WarnerMedia streaming site? Hard to say. The company has promised it is licensing some content from “outside providers.” Given that every provider in Hollywood is busy balkanizing its content, however, don’t expect much beyond the Warner catalogue. Does that at least mean we’ll get to see a lot of superhero action? Warner Bros. has been cranking out all the recent DC Comics blockbuster movies, including Wonder Woman, Justice League and Aquaman. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely. DC already has its own exclusive, subscription-based streaming service called DC Direct (which consists of the live-action drama “Titans” and … not much else).

All this leads me to believe that Warner will fall back on its few “tentpole” franchises, meaning … hmm. Bugs Bunny cartoons, Harry Potter marathons and (I’d bet money on this) a bunch of cheap Matrix TV series spinoffs. It’s not a lot for the (potential) $10, $20 or $30 a month you’d be paying. To top it off, by the time WarnerMedia’s streaming service gets up and going, odds are many Americans will already be forking out monthly subscription fees to half the studios in Hollywood. Welcome to the future, America. Choose your corporation. And choose wisely.